It’s never a bad time during a cold winter season to remind professional truck drivers about the dos and don’ts of safe driving. Operating a heavy-duty Class 8 commercial motor vehicle isn’t an easy task to begin with, but when you add in potentially unsafe weather conditions, it becomes a real problem.
Are you taking extra precautions? If you are a long-haul truck driver operating over windy mountain passes that are susceptible to snow, would you know how to correct if you experienced wheel slippage?
These are the types of questions that any responsible truck driver operating in wintry conditions would ask themselves. It is important not just for personal safety, but for the safety of everyone else on the road. No one likes driving in unsafe conditions, so making it as safe as possible benefits everyone.
One of the main problems inexperienced truck drivers find themselves in during winter conditions arise from the operator not altering their driving habits to account for the bad weather. Just as one would alter how they drive their passenger car during a howling blizzard, a truck driver must do double the effort.
Professional truckers must have the knowledge and ability to implement proper preventative safety skills in order to stay safe on potentially unsafe road surfaces. Altering one’s driving behavior starts with how much speed they are sending to the wheels.
Most winter-related accidents occur because one party was traveling too fast for the conditions. It gets complicated when the allowed speed limit is too fast for the conditions. A truck driver must be able to discern when going below the posted speed limit is necessary for safe operating condition.
Any truck driver who has operated in winter will tell you the importance of taking your time. There is no need to hurry when safety is at stake. Just consider the fact that your cargo won’t matter if you wind up in a collision because you were going to fast.
If there is a number two for what causes the most winter-related accidents, it would have to be following too closely. Truck drivers already know the importance of keeping a safe distance, so when the conditions are snowy or icy, they must also know that more room than they are used to may be called for.
As you are maintaining a safe distance, it is also important to be sure you are not following the tail lights of the vehicle in front of you. You know this already from nighttime truck driving, but it is even more important in low-visibility scenarios. Your first reaction may be to follow those lights because you can see even less. Don’t do it.
Platooning is a big part of how some truck drivers and trucking companies get the job done. Well, if there is one time for a truck driver to not operate in a pack, it is during unsafe weather conditions. Beyond platoons, avoid traffic clusters.
When you make sure you are a safe distance away from clumps of other drivers, whether truckers or passenger drivers, you are operating safely. Snowy conditions call for solo driving, so make sure you focus on your tractor and where it’s going, rather than where anyone else on the road around you is going.
We could probably fill a four-part series blog on safe winter driving tips. From not stopping on the shoulder to proper braking and steering techniques if you loose control, there is so much to cover.
Fortunately, if you follow this year’s guiding principles, you’ll be starting out safely on those icy, snowy winter roads. Stay safe out there this season, truckers! And happy holidays!